The applicable law must be applied to the accident facts to determine your legal rights. Evidence and trial procedure laws will be considered in later chapters. Here, we look at the basis for legal action and the laws that grant victims’ rights of compensation following an accident.
North Carolina Negligence Laws
To collect money in a car accident case, you must show that you did nothing wrong and you must also prove that other drivers and parties failed to be careful and thereby caused your accident. To establish fault and legal liability, you must establish evidence that shows negligence of other drivers or parties whose errors caused the subject collision.
North Carolina law allows a victim of another person’s careless actions (called negligence, or failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would when facing the same circumstances) to collect payment for all results of the mistake. However, our law followsthe pure contributory negligence approach. If the victim of a car accident is just 1 percent at fault for the accident, he or she cannot collect any money for injury or property damage. There are three exceptions that allow you to overcome the contributory negligence defense so you can still collect for your car accident claims:
- Non-causative Negligence—If the car accident victim was somehow careless but the error did not contribute to causing the accident, he or she can still collect for all accident claims. An example would be a driver who was slightly impaired and sitting safely at a red light waiting for the light to change when he or she is struck from behind by a driver who was paying no attention to the road.
- Gross Negligence—If the other driver is guilty of “gross” or extreme negligence, he or she cannot use the victim’s contributory negligence as a defense. Thus, a drunk driver cannot avoid payment obligations by alleging that the victim driver was slightly careless.
- Last Clear Chance—Car accident lawyers use this defense to save the case when it does appear that the victim made driving errors. This defense allows a negligent driver to collect for all accident claims if the other driver could have seen the victim in his or her “position of peril” and if the other driver had a clear opportunity (or “last clear chance”) to avoid the car accident. We often rely on law enforcement interviews and accident-reconstruction experts to establish this defense.